Many agencies to miss IPv6 deadline

Two presidents have pushed agencies to adopt the next-generation internet protocol, but four years later progress is still slow.

Most federal agencies will miss the Sept. 30 deadline by which their public-facing websites are supposed to support Internet Protocol version 6. An official weekly snapshot provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology showed that as of Sept. 26, just 11 percent of the 1,498 government external domains tested had operational IPv6 support.  Another 35 percent have the support in progress, but a full 54 percent showed no progress.

(See the complete list of domains included in the testing here.)

IPv6 conversions

The government is doing better than industry, however, which showed only 1 percent of sites with full support and another 28 percent in progress.

NIST cautions that its results are only estimates. Still, the numbers suggest the government still has some way to go to meet the Obama Administration’s mandate, issued in 2010 by former U.S. CIO Vivek Kundra. NIST looks to see whether a given domain supports IPv6 in three components: the domain name system -- which translates the numerical IP address into something intelligible to humans, such as fcw.com -- e-mail and the web.

There is urgency driven by the mandate, but there is also urgency driven by the dwindling number of available addresses under IPv4, the old standard. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, which manages the global allocation of IP addresses, assigned the final available blocks to regional registries in early 2011, and  some of those regional allocations have already been exhausted.  IPv6 affords an exponentially larger number of unique IP addresses (79,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times as many as IPv4), which will be vital for the increasingly networked world.

Akamai, a company that provides products and services to enable agencies to make the transition, has seen an increase in the level of priority, said Christine Schweikert, senior engagement manager with the company. "With the upcoming deadline, we're finding that the transition to IPv6 is really top of mind for U.S. government agencies," she said a few days before the deadline.

Akamai uses dual-stacked servers to aid the transition, allowing an agency to run IPv4 and IPv6 simultaneously. She likened it to learning a new language. "Over time, as IPv6 clients become more ubiquitous, you speak less and less IPv4 and eventually, IPv6 becomes your native language," she said.

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